Our #7 Dayton Flyers were the talk of the town in Pittsburgh on Wednesday January 29, 2020. Colin Dunlap from 93.7 The Fan Morning Show questioned listeners “Is this the best team to come in and play Duquesne since the UMass team with Marcus Camby?”. While the Flyers came away with a win they did not look like the historic team they really are. As @thekidfromLowes wrote on Twitter, “Last night was the first time I’ve seen the team rattled all year. Even down 13 at SLU they were okay, but not last night.” Listen road victories are not easy to come by especially against a well-coached team like the Dukes. The Dukes came into the game losers of two in a row after their hot conference schedule start and looked like a team with their backs against the wall. Good teams find ways to win and that’s exactly what the Flyers did with a 73-69 victory moving to 8-0 in the A-10 and 19-2 overall.
Before we jump into the recap, let’s set the scene. Duquesne’s A.J. Palumbo Center is currently going through renovations, so the Dukes have been playing their home games either at Robert Morris University or PPG Paints Arena. This may be one reason why the Dukes have only been averaging 1,500 in home game attendance despite their 15-4 record coming into the night. Luckily the Atlantic Ten was smart enough to schedule the tilt against the Flyers at PPG as there was around 7,000 in attendance. The increase in attendance can be attributed to the couple thousand Dayton fans and college basketball fans in general who were there to see the number 7 team in the country and NBA lottery draft pick Obi Toppin. It was not a result of the Duquesne students showing up as seen below. They aren’t the Red Scare and didn’t learn from the Richmond student section as their favorite chant was “Obi Sucks” and “Overrated”. Obi’s top 5 dunk of the year early in the second half quickly quieted the chant. Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot commented after the game “Our student support has been much improved” but if this is improved then I hate to see what it looked like before.
Jalen Crutcher opened the night with an historic bucket as it was his 1,000 point as a Flyer. While Obi is dominating the national spotlight, Crutcher’s ability to run the offense and ability to score at an elite level might make him our most valuable player and a legit All-Atlantic Ten First Team player. National basketball analysts are starting to take notice. What really makes this Dayton team special though is our depth and ability to get scoring from 6-7 different players. With that said though, I think the Dayton fan base is still waiting for Rodney Chatman to get the scoring touch he showed in Maui back. Rodney had a couple of early threes in the game before going cold in the second half. Thankfully we have the best 6th man in the country in Ibi Watson who would legitimately start for 99% of the other 352 NCAA DI basketball teams.
Dayton was clearly the better team but made some mistakes which led to an uncomfortable final score. It seemed like every time Dayton would go on a run they would turn the ball over and allow the Dukes to go on a run of their own including two 8-0 runs in the second half. When you are as good as the Flyers are sometimes it is easy to relax a bit knowing in the back of your mind that you can turn it back on when you need to. Eventually this is going to hurt the Flyers so let’s just hope it happens in A-10 play and not the NCAA tournament. As we have mentioned, what makes Dayton special is their ability to get scoring from 6-7 different players but when they get in tight games like this they need to rely on Jalen and Obi. For some reason, Jalen’s last shot came with over 9 minutes left in the game and Obi’s last shot came with over 4 minutes left in the game. In tight games down the stretch in the A-10 and in the NCAA Tournament this cannot happen. Fortunately, Obi made two free throws with 25 seconds left which helped seal the narrow victory for the Flyers.